Speaking to MEPs in Strasbourg, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Tuesday that EU candidates in the Western Balkans will need to fully resolve their border disputes before being allowed to join the bloc in the future.
“There can be no further accession for Western Balkan countries without their border disputes having first been resolved,” Juncker said after Croatian Prime Minister Andrei Plenkovic commented on an ongoing border dispute between Croatia and Slovenia.
Juncker said the Croatia-Slovenia border dispute underlines a key issue in the region that needs to be resolved, as it has also become “a European problem” as more time goes by.
“Investing in the stability and prosperity of the Western Balkans means investing in the security and future of our Union. Although there will be no further enlargements under this mandate, today the European Commission is charting the European path ahead for the Western Balkans. With a strong political will, real and sustained reforms, and definitive solutions to disputes with neighbours, the Western Balkans can move forward with their respective European paths. Whether this is achieved will depend on their objective merits. The European Commission will be rigorous but it will also be fair,” he added.
During the Western Balkans discussion, Juncker suggested that Serbia and Montenegro might be able to join in 2025 if they meet all membership conditions.
“That is an indicative date; an encouragement so that the parties concerned work hard to follow that path,” Juncker said.